Colorado Avalanche Face Biggest Game of the Season vs Kings

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15: Gabriel Landeskog
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15: Gabriel Landeskog /

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the LA Kings for what’s up to this point the biggest game of the season.

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the LA Kings for the first and only time this season. Colorado previously played in LA on December 21, 2017, losing 2-1 in overtime.

Colorado is coming off a thrilling win in Chicago, having beaten the Blackhawks 5-1, thus eliminating the Hawks from playoff contention. The Kings are coming in from Canada, having played the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. They lost in overtime, but it gave them an all-important point.

All time, the Kings have a slight edge over Colorado, who have gone 44-45-6-4(tie).

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: March 22, 7:00pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), FS-W (Kings feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Playoff Positioning

Well, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t get any help from games last night. The St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins in overtime, and the Anaheim Ducks beat the Calgary Flames in regulation. So, the LA Kings and Anaheim are rotating in and out of the third Pacific Division seed and second wild card berth, while the Blues’ are tapping on the bracket doors.

Tonight, the Avalanche face one of the teams they’re jostling with for playoff contention, the Kings. LA currently sits in that second wild card spot. That makes tonight’s game the biggest one they’ve faced all season.

At the time of writing, the Avalanche have one more point (88) than LA and a game in hand. They have the same amount of points as Anaheim and a game in hand. They have three more points than St. Louis with the same amount of games played.

It almost feels like more than even four points are on the line tonight.

Keys to the Game

The main keys to the game are game management and nerves, with the two of them being at least somewhat related.

The Colorado Avalanche are a dominant team at home. They’ve gone 25-9-2 in the Pepsi Center. It doesn’t even matter if there are as many away fans as home fans at the game, the Avs still gain confidence from being in their home barn.

However, something that’s a consistent issue for the Avs is game management. They’ve now settled on coming out flat. They were lucky in Chicago that goalie Semyon Varlamov kept them in the game. Even though they gave up the first goal, five unanswered goals later resulted in that important win.

What can be either a help or a hindrance is nerves. They know how important this game is. Luckily, Colorado has some good players who have played in important games before, even if only at lower levels. Hopefully they can channel those nerves into giving them an extra step in the game.

MacKinnon for Hart

As promised, I’m going to agitate for Nathan MacKinnon to win the Hart Trophy in every one of these game previews from here on out. This time, I’m going to focus on just a couple of factoids.

First, after Tuesday night’s two-assist night, MacKinnon is just three points (91) behind Nikita Kucherov (94) for leading the entire NHL in points. MacKinnon has played six fewer games — 65 to Kucherov’s 71. Which, of course, means Nathan has a higher points-per-game total than Nikita — 1.4 points to Kucherov’s 1.32.

Two, Kucherov is playing on a team that’s a favorite for playing deep into the playoffs. MacKinnon is dragging the Avalanche on his back into the playoffs. After his line of Mikko Rantanen (79 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (56 points) with a side of fourth-forward Tyson Barrie (52 points), the scoring race goes to rookie Alexander Kerfoot and his 38 points. That’s a far cry from the seven 40+ point scorers Tampa has.

So, MVP! MVP! #MacKinnonForHart.

Next: Are the Avs Over-Relying on Varly?

After tonight, the Colorado Avalanche will face the Kings one more time during their all-important road trip that starts on Easter Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, whom they’re also fighting for playoff positioning. They’ll play the Kings the following day in their final back-to-back of the season.